First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 28th October 2009
This week Fergus considers the terrifyingly precarious nature of his golf game.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a terrifying programme about a daredevil rock climber called Dean Potter – an expert in the ludicrous art of “slacklining.” It basically involves stretching an inch wide nylon rope between two points and walking across it. At a basic level this means trying to balance on the rope close to the ground, but Potter likes to make it more difficult and attempts crossings over long gaps, thousands of feet in the air. He starts off with a safety line, but the ultimate aim is to make the traverse without any sort of backup. No pole for balance and no safety net. He’s managed some incredible crossings and, at the time of the documentary’s airing, was still alive.
Anyway, after yesterday’s Alliance meeting at Edzell I was thinking about the programme and how often my rounds in the competition replicate unsuccessful slacklining attempts – I set off nervously, apprehensive about the potential dangers and, for a time, I teeter precariously on a narrow thread, desperately trying to maintain my balance. While I’m still on that rope, the feeling is thrilling and, to the untrained observer, there’s an illusion of control. But, the smallest error, an unusual gust of wind or a misjudged yardage can so easily result in total destruction.
I started promisingly at Edzell and, when a birdie at the fourth got me back to level par, I felt my footing on the rope might hold true. I naively thought I could make it to the other side and began to relax. It’s that sort of complacency that costs slackliners their lives and frequently costs me the chance of returning a good score.
My disaster moment came as I neared the mid-point of the rope. I’d fired a good drive down the par-5 ninth and had just 190 yards to the green. It was a great chance to build on a solid foundation. But, my second shot was a horror – a thinned slice that hit the ground fast and began careering towards the River Esk. I felt my balance wavering and my arms began flailing and my heart pounding as the inevitable death of another round loomed large. The ball plunged off the fairway and down the riverbank. I tumbled from my perch and fell to my ruin.
From level par, I went to six-over in the space of three holes. By the time I made it back to the clubhouse I was nine-over and a quivering wreck. Why do I do it to myself?
The thing is, the feeling when you’re still balancing on that rope is hard to beat and this is what makes me come back for more. Unlike slackliners who fail in their attempt to complete a challenge, I’m lucky to be able to try again and again. With that in mind, I’m off to Ballater GC this afternoon to set up my rope on the first tee. Maybe today my balance will hold.